“When anti-mutant Colonel William Stryker kidnaps Professor X and attacks his school, the X-Men must ally with their archenemy Magneto to stop him.”

Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Zak Penn, David Hayter, Bryan Singer
Staring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Bryan Cox, Alan Cumming, Shawn Ashmore
Streaming: Disney+
Release Date: May 2, 2003

There is an absolute crap-ton of stuff crammed into X2: X-Men United (2003). There are numerous storylines intertwining with one another that also overlap with mind-warping and telepathy warfare. New characters are introduced and pledges are broken. Hints are storylines to come are dripped intravenously along the winding road.

The storylines that are touched on during X2: X-Men United.

  • Logan trying to rediscover his past self
  • Stryker controlling mutants and attempting to have a human mutant holocaust/extermination
  • The hints of Jean Grey during into the Dark Phoenix
  • Magneto wanting to enact revenge on all humans
  • The teenage angst and love debacles between Iceman, Pyro and Rogue
  • The love triangle of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Logan

That is a lot to take in.

Rewatching X2: X-Men United, I never noticed how heavy the theme leans toward the holocaust, genocide and that type of over-arching evil. The idea of a war to wipe out an enemy that isn’t outwardly looking for violence or malevolence. The rounding up of the mutants at Xavier’s school for the gifted, collecting them as prisoners and to experiment on. Even Magneto betraying his own people in the beginning of the film; he wasn’t given a choice as many were forced to do unspeakable things during the terrible time surrounding WWII. The cages the kids are in at Lake Alkali (which is like a concentration camp in itself) and then the experimentation on individuals.

X2: X-Men United really did lean into it hard. This thematic tie-in is even more profound when you flash forward to more modern X-Men movies like X-Men: First Class (2011) where Magneto’s connection to the concentration camps and the Holocaust is more explained.

Looking back at this movie and X-Men: Last Stand (2006), it is crazy how little Cyclops (James Marsden) get screen time. One of the more prominent X-Men members, Scott Summers is absent for the majority of X2 and disappears REALLY quickly in X-Men: Last Stand. We only get to know him as the love interest of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and not as a full fledged character himself.

Speaking of the love triangle, the most unneeded scenes in X2 involve Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). I totally, totally, TOTALLY forgot that Logan kissed Jean Grey in the school. That scene really had ZERO chemistry at all. Never for a second did I buy that Jean Grey was interested. Not a chance. I felt bad for Summers but never saw him enough to ever have it click.

The love triangle and connection is really harked on in X-Men: Last Stand, which many people hated. The scenes involving the the romance of the adults just added to the length of the movie and didn’t move the needle at all.

While weaving in a lot of fan lore and stories is impressive, X2: X-Men United‘s best asset is its action. There is a significant improvement in the staging, editing, and veracity of the action. Sure the wire acts and flipping kills are maybe a smidge over the top, that was just the style of the early 2000s.

The best two scenes involve the two best characters in the X-Men movie universe. We have Wolverine destroying the invaders of Xavier’s school in classic comic book movie flare, but the best scene in the movie features the franchise’s best villain.

Magneto (Ian McKellen) escaping from the plastic prison is a perfect scene for an elderly actor who can’t do all the big stunts. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) injects the poor security guard with some iron and from there it’s a wrap. The blood coming out of the front of his shirt is original and then Magneto whirling the balls like a grand wizard makes the entire escape iconic. Then Magneto coming out of the prison on his metal disk with that smirk. Mhmm, just good stuff.

X2: X-Men United is one of the better X-Men movies and it’s a good example of how to properly amp up a sequel with more stakes, better action and deeper concepts. It’s rather remarkable when looking back 18 years ago. Though with that being said, Patrick Stewart still looks the same damn ago.

STANKO RATING: B+ (3.5/5 Stars)

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